Wales could very well be the Castle Capital of the world.
Within the borders of Wales’ counties, you can find 600 separate castles, and you will never be far from what has become the symbol of heritage in Wales. In South West Wales in particular, there are vast ranges of castles and ruins for you to explore and immerse yourself in.
But what would a castle be without legend? Well, here is where the heritage of Wales comes into full force. Whether fact or fantasy, the mystery, and magic that surrounds our ancient past – our ancestral lines – and the stories we have to tell because of them are plenty. Your biggest problem may be just where to start.
Let’s see if we can help with that…
Considered to be the centre of Welsh culture, the area once known as Cardiganshire, was in early days, its very own minor kingdom. The Kingdom of Ceredigion was one of several Welsh kingdoms that emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain. It is by this token then, that Ceredigion’s castles and ruins remain important highlights in Welsh history. And though by and large, small in number, are still grand in the county’s significance. None more so, than the huge and engulfing castle which is perched at the entrance of Cardigan itself.
Overlooking the Teifi River, it’s heritage dates back the 11th Century, and through Welsh rule and liaison with Kings of England, to the modern-day where it stands as a monument to its own symbolic past.
Or, how about Aberystwyth Castle? Pictured here, and now no more than a ruin, but it amongst its other important plays in the history of mid-Wales, it eventually became the site of the Royal Mint for over a decade, from 1637, until it was itself ‘slighted’ by none other than Oliver Cromwell himself in 1649.
You can find more instances of castles, ruins and medieval history of Mid & West Wales at the following locations…
From top to bottom, east to west, Pembrokeshire’s landscape is peppered with an array of different heritage sites, from mysterious prehistoric tombs to medieval castles and even Celtic religious shrines. As well as traditional ‘motte-and-bailey‘s, and castles with turrets and towers, there are some surprisingly unique places to visit, view and explore.
Take Carew Castle, for example. A traditional structure with half moat built into the foundations and backed onto a 23-acre millpond. An excellent and well-preserved example of a medieval castle, as is Pembroke Castle, just a few miles West. Steeped in history, it was the birthplace of Henry VII in 1457 and casts an auspicious and towering presence over the principal county town.
As an alternative to castles, but still shrouded in heritage, as much as mystery, are sites like Pentre Ifan, in the North of the county. It is the largest and best-preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales, and dates back to 3500BC. Originally, it would have been used as an ancient burial chamber. Or again, consider St Catherine’s Island and Fort. Whilst not medieval or ancient, it dates back to the Napoleonic era of the 19th Century and the impressive structure, which is only accessible during lower tides, was commissioned to defend the shores of the United Kingdom.
Carmarthenshire’s castles and sites are spread across the county with a broad brush.
Carmarthenshire is characteristically more rural than Pembrokeshire or Ceredigion, but it does have a coastline, and that coastline is home to some truly magnificent castles. Springing to mind straight away, you have the clifftop ruins of Llansteffan castle. And a few miles down the road, you have the wonderful example that is Laugharn Castle.
All in all, there are 12 main castles to speak of in Carmarthenshire. If you go more inland, you have some fantastic spots such as Carreg Cennen and the castle in Carmarthen town as well.
Whilst there are considered to be 12 designated sites, there are other interesting structures to see in the rural Carmarthenshire countryside. Paxton’s Tower (pictured) is a prime example of that. The tower is a Neo-Gothic folly, which was erected in honour of Lord Nelson around 200 years ago and is situated on the top of a hill near Llanarthney in the Tywi valley.